Book 3 – Chapter Twenty-Three

Anarchaia points to the space of floor before her and smiles excitedly. “Let me—hic!—braid your hair.”

“That’s equally lame,” Grimory grunts. “Ana is relieved of Dare Duty.”

Koltira shrugs. “I don’t mind it. I hear the fishtail look is rather becoming on elves, though you may be too drunk for that.” He scoots off the couch and realizes his own level of inebriation. “Taveth, your turn.” He laughs.

“Truth, I suppose. Hasn’t let me down so far. Heh.”

Anarchaia swings a leg around Koltira and scoots to the edge of the couch, taking his long hair into her hands. She smirks. “What do you like most about your secret love interest?”

Taveth taps his fingertips together as he thinks on phrasing. “Um, heh, I-I suppose…very gallant. Yes, that’s a good one.”

Koltira tries to hide his chuckling.

Anarchaia jerks her head and smiles. “Gallant? I suppose you’re not wrong.” She gives him a sideways glance through her mask as she braids. “Grim?”

“I’ll go with…truth, too,” he says, the alcohol catching up with him. “Don’t feel like getting up.”

Taveth purses his lips. “Are you in love with my cousin?”

Koltira’s ears prick, but he doesn’t turn his head, wanting to seem uncaring.

Grimory immediately brings the bottle to his lips and takes well more than a shot’s amount down his throat, then sets the bottle aside when he feels sick. “Ana?” he says with a grin.

“I’ll take a truth since I’m a bit busy,” she laughs, still braiding.

“Why do you hide what you are?” he blurts, then flinches. “S-sorry. That was mean.”

The undead sobers some. “When…I was raised…I was one of the first. Necromancy was very…shameful. Master—” She forces the words through her teeth. “—Kel’thuzad was shunned and expelled for it. I was a product. People were…not fond of me. I know there are many forsaken around, but…I never fail to get a wince from my peers who know why I exist.”

“Sh-should’ve taken a shot. Heh. I’m sorry.”

“She’s stronger than she knows, Taveth.” Koltira reaches back to give her knee a loving squeeze. “I can’t move right now, so, truth for me as well.”

“I-I’m really not—”

“You gonna marry Ana, now?” Grimory says with a cool sobriety that makes the mage stiffen.

Koltira cocks an eyebrow. “You know, we’re really not at that stage, yet. So, I’ll have to answer you with a firm ‘I don’t know.'” He smirks, turning just the smallest bit to eye the demon hunter. “Look at that, at least I had the courage to answer.”

Taveth grins painfully at the growing tension. “Heh, heh. Good answer.” He taps his fingers together. “I think I’ll try a dare. Yeah. Dare.” His eyes betray his fear just the smallest bit.

Anarchaia inhales but is cut off.

“Since you’ve never kissed anyone, why not give Ana a kiss?” Grimory slurs with a smile.

The mage’s shoulders rise as she alternates between looking at Koltira and Taveth. “I-I don’t think he’s interested…”

Koltira rolls his eyes. “Lots of kissing dares going around. Makes me wonder what’s really on everyone’s mind. Either that or it’s lack of imagination.”

“Oh please,” Grimory snaps. “Like there’s any other reason to play this ga—”

Taveth takes a deep breath, leans forward, and kisses the cheek of her mask. “I’m not afraid to kiss a beautiful woman.” He leans back triumphantly.

The Illidari’s sneer falls into an unimpressed line. “Hardly counts.”

Anarchaia chortles. “Loopholes.”

Koltira blinks. “What? What happened?”

“Kissed her cheek,” Taveth says, beaming with his ingenious.

Koltira jerks back with his uncontrollable laughter. “Totally counts. You never specified.”

Taveth grins at Grimory, trying to hide his admiration of his profile. “Your turn.”

Alisbeth stumbles in through the door, carrying a nearly life-sized stuffed furbolg. She peeks over the top and goes to sit down, but trips on the edge of the couch and stumbles forward, falling on Taveth.

Anarchaia bristles when the nearly finished braid is torn from her hands. “Koltira!” She pushes his head forward again to continue, then looks up as Alisbeth nears. “Oh, Al—!!” The couch groans as nearly everyone sitting on it is crushed under stiff fur and dust.

Grimory laughs. “And where have you been?”

Alisbeth shoves the bear between herself and Taveth as though it has every right to be on the couch. “I was upshet. Sho I went to th’ toy shop and helped Jaredleto closhe. Thenwe go’ ta drinkin’ caushe I was ushet.” She smacks her lips and traces her fingers in the air as though trying to pluck through a spider web for what she was saying. “He made me thiss guy sho I’d feel beddersh.” She snuggles into the furbolg.

Grimory lifts his eyebrows, barely making out what she’s saying. “So, you feel better, now?”

Anarchaia brushes the loose fur from her robes, then scoffs in irritation over, once again, being interrupted. She grabs the braid again and finishes, tying it off with a conjured leather tie and conjuring a rose to stick at the base.

The death knight smiles. “I feeeeeeel…shnuggly. Woul’joo like-a shnuuugle?” She grins at him.

“I would like a shnuggle!” Taveth mimics her heavy slur, the hiccups. He wraps his arms around the furbolg. “Ay, Grim. ‘S your turn.”

Grimory grins down at her. “Always, drunky.” He turns his body so he can pull her into his lap. “Dare.”

Alisbeth snuggles into the demon hunter, allowing Taveth to have the furbolg all to himself.

“Kiss the fubolg!” Taveth shouts.

Koltira rolls his eyes. “More kissing.” He tilts his head back to look at Anarchaia, then whispers, “I dare you to kiss me.” He winks at her.

“Hm. Think I’ll take the shot,” she quips, then smiles and lifts her mask to plant an upside-down kiss on his lips.

“Lots of kissing dares goin’ ’round,” Grimory mocks, then grabs the stuffed toy to place a kiss on its nose, then sticks his tongue out at Taveth.

Taveth laughs and returns to hugging the stuffed creature.

Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow. “Oh, yer shtill playing? C’n-I play?”

Grimory hugs her closer. “Truth or dare?” he says into her ear.

Alisbeth bites her lower lip as she smiles at him. “I don’t wanna kish an’thing, sho I shoose truth.”

Taveth laughs. “Oh, come on, Ali. Where’s the love?”

She giggles and turns her head to stick her tongue out at him.

Grimory thinks for a long moment. “What’s your favorite thing about me?” he asks with a haughty smile, wrapping his arms around her so she can’t escape.

“Tha’ you’re you.” She grins wide. “Cou’n’t say ev’rthing, sho…”

Grimory furrows his brow upward and smiles, not expecting a genuine answer. “Awe.” He pokes her nose. “Ana.”

The mage looks up from smiling down into Koltira’s face and blinks. “O-oh. Dare? I guess?”

“Take off your mashk!” Alisbeth shouts, then covers her mouth and giggles at her volume.

“We already did that,” Koltira says.

“Wivout me?” She sticks out her lower lip. “Sho no’ fair. Ish she pretty?”

“Y-yeah. Sorry. Heh. You didn’t miss much.” She pulls her mask back down, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

“Go tell Khadgar to fuck himself,” Grimory laughs.

Anarchaia straightens. “Absolutely not!

He shrugs and continues to chuckle. “Then pass.”

The mage swipes up the bottle of whiskey on the floor beside her foot and takes a drink, scowling.

Koltira laughs. “Dare.”

Anarchaia swallows and grimaces, then hands him the half-empty bottle. “Slam the rest of this.”

Koltira upends the bottle and chugs it as fast as he can. “That’s gonna hit hard,” he says. He sets the bottle on the table.

“I suppose it’s my turn,” Taveth says on a sigh, his eyes closed as he squeezes the critter. “Truth.”

“You ever fucked a woman?” Grimory asks, curiosity overtaking his manners.

Anarchaia glares at him. “Grim!” she hisses.

The demon hunter shrugs. “Just a question.”

She looks at Taveth. “You don’t have to answer that.”

Taveth blinks at the mage, then sighs. “I-it’s quite all right.” He clears his throat. “My research keeps me very busy. Too busy for fraternization.”

Grimory’s eyes light up and he leans over to look at Anarchaia.

“No,” she growls, then smiles at Taveth. “N-no offense. Heh.”

Grimory pffts and leans back again. “My turn again already? Truth.” He flicks the tip of Alisbeth’s ear gently.

Koltira smirks. “Ever fucked with a man?”

Alisbeth snorts.

Grimory furrows his brow. “No. Is that an offer?”

Koltira chuckles. “Is that interest I hear in your voice? ‘Cause, I know a guy…”

Alisbeth laughs once, then her eyes go wide. “Do it! A bucket lisht should alwaysh have encountersh with the shame shex. And threeshomesh.” She lifts a seductive eyebrow. “Wan’ knock shomething off my bucket lisht with me?”

Grimory sneers. “No thanks. I don’t like to share. Nor do I die, so a bucket list is unnecessary.” He pinches her cheek. “Your turn.”

“Don’need to die to have a bucket lisht.” She smiles and pokes his nose. “Boop. Truth!”

“What would you do if one of us was raised as a forsaken?” Grimory says with care, hoping she’s drunk enough not to lose it.

Anarchaia swallows and leans back in her seat, avoiding looking over.

Alisbeth frowns. “Well…I can’t. Koltira can’t. Can…can you be…raished?” Tears spring to her eyes at the thought. “Pleashe tell me you can’t. I don’t like tha’idea. I like you thish way.”

Taveth sets a hand on her back. “What about me? I can.”

Alisbeth cries harder. “I don’wan’o be-afraido’you.” She grabs him and tries to hold Grimory, Taveth, and the stuffed furbolg in her arms. “I’ll kill an’one tha’triesh to hur’you!”

Taveth struggles in her grasp. “So, you hate forsaken because you’re afraid of them?”

She purses her lips at him. “I a’ready ansh’er’d my truth.”

“Not all forsaken are scary,” Grimory explains, petting her hair.

“Most of them didn’t have a choice,” Anarchaia adds. “Like you.”

Alisbeth purses her lips. “I-I don’know.” She looks at the demon hunter and smiles, then leans in to kiss him. “Will you protect me from them?”

Taveth grins over at her. “I’d protect you.”

Grimory gives her the kiss he’s prompted to give. “Sure,” he says with a reassuring grin.

Anarchaia purses her lips as well and holds back a sigh. “Who next?”

Taveth pokes the mage in the ribs. “I think it’s your turn.”

Anarchaia chirps a loud laugh and jerks away, a hand over her mouth. “Dare.”

“I dare…” Taveth’s voice trails off before he snaps upright. “What?”

Alisbeth laughs. “Aww, is it past your bedtime?”

“I’ll have you know that,” he looks over at a clock across the room, “yes, it most definitely is.”

Alisbeth grins evilly. “I dare Abu to carry my coushin to bed—”

“I can carry myself, thank you!”

“AND shpend the night!” she finishes.

The mage stands, swaying some before steadying herself. “I don’t know about staying the night,” she lifts her hands and with magic pulls Taveth from his spot, his feet inches off the floor. “But I’ll walk you home.”

Grimory scoffs again. “Passer,” he sneers at the undead.

Alisbeth giggles. “Gotta shtay the night or it doesn’t count!”

Taveth fights against the floating. “I’d rather just walk myself, please.”

“I dunno,” Anarchaia starts. “You’re awfully dr—”

“Anarchaia! Do you have any idea what time it is?” Khadgar’s shadow looms over, arms folded and a rolled parchment in one hand.

The mage jumps, releasing Taveth from her magical grasp. “Master!” She leans to look past him at the clock near the door. “Three-thirty?” she responds with an innocent grin.

He taps her gently on the head with the parchment. “This was supposed to be in my hands three and a half hours ago. Yet I found it lying incomplete on your desk.”

“It’s in your hands now—”

“Ana.”

Grimory snerks. “Late homework?”

Anarchaia cocks her head to glare at him.

Taveth stands, his eyes wide. He tries to remain straight, but he still sways with inebriation. “I believe it is mostly my fault, sir. I was g—hic! excuse me—getting to know them. By the way, it is an honor to finally meet you. I own every book you’ve written or contributed to. Really, your research is quite fan—”

“Taveth, you’re blithering,” Alisbeth says, laughing.

Taveth blushes. “Yes. Sorry.” He smiles at Anarchaia. “I look forward to comparing notes in the future.” He kisses her hand, the act of bending to do so making him tip forward onto her.

Khadgar blinks down at the elf and his stern expression softens to a smile. “I’m flattered. It’s a pleasure.” His eyebrows raise in the slightest fashion as Taveth bends down to kiss his apprentice’s hand. You have a lot suitors all of a sudden, he says into her mind.

Anarchaia chuckles and wraps her arms about him to pull him back to his feet. This one doesn’t count. She pulls up her mask to smile at Taveth. “I, as well.” She leans over to wave at Koltira. “Tomorrow.”

“G-go easy on her,” Taveth tells Khadgar. He wraps Anarchaia in a hug and whispers in her ear, “I had no idea Archmage Khadgar was so handsome!”

Koltira stands and gives the Archmage a pinched smile. “Khadgar.” He smiles at Anarchaia. “Tomorrow, then.” He doesn’t wait for any goodbyes as he exits the tavern, the slightest sway in his steps.

Anarchaia titters into fingertips. “He really is,” she responds just as quietly, then lifts her hands to perhaps give Koltira a hug, but he saunters off before she can. “Good night,” she calls after, then repeats to others.

Grimory gives a wave from the back. “Night, Ana.”

Khadgar suddenly sets a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” She disappears in a flash.

The Archmage sighs. “Teleport.” He regards the other three with kind eyes. “Again, a pleasure.” Scales of his cloak tinkling, he turns and leaves as well.

Taveth sways, nearly falling over several times. “I j-just met Archmage Khadgar!” He gives a little jump of excitement and falls onto Alisbeth and Grimory.

Alisbeth laughs. “You’re trashed, Tav! Can you even make it back to your room?”

“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know.” He tries to stand and falls on them again. “Probably not.”

“I’ll walk ‘im home,” Grimory slurs. “I’m not much more sober, but at least no one will fuck with ‘im then.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet! Thank you!” Alisbeth beams at him and leans in to give him several little kisses. “I’m going to get this into my room.” She grabs the furbolg in her arms. “I’ll leave the door unlocked.” She helps Taveth to his feet.

Taveth furrows his brow. “Oh. All right. J-just w-walking home, is all. N-ho pro—hic!—problem. Heh.” He eyes the demon hunter.

Grimory smiles at the kisses, then turns amused eyes on Taveth as he stands. “You sure you don’t want me to stay the night?” he jokes, then turns for the door.

Taveth laughs outright. “If you can convince the guards—which you won’t—then you’re welcome in my humble little room.” He stumbles after Grimory. “Diori would be thrilled to wake up and see you there. You know, she adores you.”

The demon hunter sobers some. “I’m glad she does. Don’t think I’ll ever feel like a dad to her, but…even if she likes me. That’s enough.”

Taveth throws an arm over the other’s shoulder. “But you should. She’s your daughter and you have every right…”

“It’s not that easy.”

He smiles up at Grimory as he looks over the man’s profile in the dim street lamps. He notices the quiet of the night and realizes they’re the only ones on the street. “Hey, Grim?”

He tilts his head to look at the slightly shorter man through the curl of his horn. “Yeah? What’s up?”

Taveth steps in front of the demon hunter and stops, staring up at him and forcing the bravery to not abandon him. “I changed my mind.” Before the other can respond he grabs him behind the neck and presses his lips on Grimory’s.

The Illidari’s eyes widen and burst into flame as he’s too shocked to pull away. A moment passes. His cheeks flush and, with sudden sobriety, he takes a step back, a hand over his mouth. “T-Taveth!”

Taveth’s eyes widen. “I-I’m sorry. I-I-I…” He takes a step back and stumbles into the steps wrapping around to the toy shop. His face darkens to deep scarlet. “I-I’ll walk m-mys-self home. Heh. Heh, heh.” He spins and grips the wall to steady himself as he heads for Greyfang Enclave.

Grimory stands in his spot for a long while, watching the other man go. The thought crosses his mind that he should continue escorting him, but the uncomfortable air surrounding them—even at this distance—prevents him from doing so. He instead turns as well and heads back to the lounge.

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